Southeastern Electrofishing Road Trip Recap

The team was out all week covering over 1,200 miles with the shock boat. The team made its first stop outside of Mobile, Alabama.

big bass
Margaret calls this bass Ted because he has been caught so many times they are on that kind of personal level.

This first stop use to be a catfish farm with multiple ponds on site. Upon arrival we stocked grass carp to help with weed growth. The ponds all have poor water quality and this has a trickle down effect on all aspects of the pond. Fertile water will have a deep green hue which is phytoplankton. Phytoplankton is the base of the food chain in all pond ecosystems. Ponds with healthy phytoplankton populations can hold 300-400 lbs of fish per acre while infertile ponds might hold 80 lbs of fish per acre. Luckily there is a simple solution of first liming the lake then applying pond fertilizer.

The changing cypress trees in Vicksburg, MS gave our oaks and maples of the mountains a good run for their money when it came to Fall colors.

The next stop on the trip was outside of Vicksburg, Mississippi. As the cover photos shows we did very well. The owner enjoys fly fishing. In turn we manage the lake with slightly clear water so bass can see his flies and lots of 3-6 lb bass to keep angler success high.

Big Bass
We always say healthy fish should look like footballs but these fish looked like overinflated footballs. These bass are pure Florida strain so we anticipate the phenomenal growth to continue.
Big Bass
If you are noticing big difference between these two fish you are correct. The fish are both roughly the same length but not the same relative weight. The fish on the left had a relative weight well over a 100%. The fish on the right is about 90% relative weight. The reason it is lacking is because it was just recently transferred from another pond containing pure Florida strain bass that were underperforming.

Our final stop was Shreveport, Louisiana to several clients managing for trophy bass. All the ponds were recently constructed so they are in their prime. If you have trophy goals then that means spot on water quality, loads of forage, and aggressive bass harvest. The fish above are a testament to proper management. Visibility of water was 30″, plenty of dense habitat for forage, and loads of forage. Besides bluegill the owner has stocked threadfin shad, crawfish, and golden shiners. The water is fertile so the shad are doing excellent and crawfish are 90 cents per pound in Louisiana. To grow trophy bass it is critical to have multiple types of forage. Bluegill are the backbone of the forage base in the pond but they need other forage types to relieve predation pressure. When bass are evenly eating different types of forage no single forage will get hit too hard.

This road trip was one of the final big trips for the shock team. As the weather turns from cool to cold the bass sink back into the depths in preparation of the spawn.

Ageing Bass

Ageing a bass is one of the best ways a biologist can gauge the health of a bass. In the Southeast we use the otolithes to determine age. In the North or where there are defined cold and warm seasons scales can be used to determine age. This is a quick guide on how otolithes are retrieved and aged.

Age of Bass
First step is to gain access to spinal region
Age and Growth Large Mouth Bass
Next Matt uses some precision tuned pliers to gently remove skin
Working space is prepped and ready for otolith removal.
Dating and Ageing Trophy Largemouth Bass
The otolithes are tucked in a nerve bundle along the spine.
Size and Age Bass
Each fish has two otolithes

 

Fish Ageing
Matt will split and sand the otoliths so that he can see through them. They are glued to a microscope slide so Matt can count the rings. This fish is five years old. It weighed 434 grams with a length of 13″. This is extremely poor growth.

Once age has been determined we can now implement strategies to improve the fishery.  Most lakes have never been managed so they are full of old, stunted bass. In most cases the best option is to drain the lake and start over. It is possible to get these bass healthy again but it may be too late. Bass have a lifespan of eight to ten years. If a bass is stunted at six years old then pouring $2,000 of bluegill in the lake is futile. During an electrosurvey we take otolith samples so call us today and get booked.

Bristol, TN Lake Improvements

This past spring Bass Pro Shops contacted us to do an electrofishing survey of their lake at the Bristol, TN store. Matt, our senior fisheries biologist, came up with a game plan to get the lake back on track. The lake was lacking cover and forage. The owner decided to go with feed trained bass due to their aggressive, fast growing nature. Habitat was also added to aide the forage that was being stocked.

Feed Trained Bass, Fish Stocking
Tyler unloading feed trained bass.
Bass Stocking, Fishery Improvements
Small mouths, thick shoulders
Fish Feeders, Purina Aquamax, Pond Management
Texas Avenger Big Mouth feeder being filled with Purina’s special Largemouth Bass feed
Feeding Largemouth Bass, Fish Feed
Close up of Purina’s Largemouth Bass feed nuggets

Feed trained bass will grow quickly as long as they are fed a proper diet. Purina started making large pellets to work with Texas Avenger Big Mouth feeders. They are the only feeders on the market currently that can shoot this feed. Each pellet packs 45% protein and 10% fat that will add quality size to fish.

Fish Habitat, Fishery Enhancements, Mossback
Lots of units built today
Mossback Habitats, Fishery Management
MossBack habitat units waiting to be deployed
Artificial Fish Habitats
MossBack’s signature textured pipe is superior to normal PVC
Habitat for Fish
MossBack even textures their limbs to encourage algae growth
Fishery Management, Fish Habitats
Dense cover is key to protect forage fish

MossBack’s units come with roughed up surfaces. When the surfaces are roughed up they grow algae much quicker than traditional, slick PVC pipe. Algae growth is important to the pond ecosystem because it forms the base of the food chain. Without it the whole food chain will suffer.

After putting in a long day the only thing left to do is wait. With proper planning and execution there is no such thing as a hopeless pond at Aquatic Environmental Services.

 

Electrofishing Outside of the Southeast

Although the bulk of our business comes from Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina we are more than capable to survey lakes outside of our home range. With the number of years Greg has been in the pond management industry he has forged a reputation of building the finest fisheries so naturally word has spread. The shock team makes a road trip to Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi in late spring and another trip to Illinois in early summer. Shocking in Florida is an emerging area for us as well. There are many companies in Florida than manage vegetation but few provide fisheries services.

One-year old smallmouth in Northern Illinois.
Toothy
Illinois stud
Greg’s arms were tired after this day in Vicksburg, MS.
All smiles in Southern Arkansas.
Electricity is not always required to survey.
Didn’t matter if it was a duck or bass for this lab.
Capt. Matt in Ohio with the apex predator…Flathead Catfish
Chilly morning smallie

Even if you do not think you’re close to the home office give us a call. Many times we can complete fish population surveys on multiple ponds in an area to reduce the travel cost.

Aging A Bass – Answers Revealed

 Aging A  Bass 

Think you can age a bass by its otolith?

Check out these zoomed in images of a bass we just aged from the otoliths below:

Want to take a guess at age and weight of these two bass?

These two pictures are from a largemouth bass otolith

Bass Otolith      

 

These two pictures are from a spotted bass otolith

spotted bass olith 1 spotted bass olith 2

 

We will give you the answers next week. – ANSWERS REVEALED

The largemouth bass was 8 years old, 11.75″ long and 0.75 lb while the spotted bass was 14 years old, 20″ long and 2.95 lbs.

What do you think this bass ate??

See the Bass who ate the Crappie

Take a look at the bulging belly on this bass! What did this big guy eat?

Bulging belly

Take a look below and see what we found inside this bass.  Bass are basically opportunistic feeders, that consume whatever is readily available.  Guess this one pound crappie was in the wrong place at the wrong time!

Bass and crappie

Did you know?

  • Bass feed primarily by sight
  • In low light conditions, they must rely on other adaptations that sense sound or vibrations
  • Smell and taste are probably used less for feeding than other senses
  • Bass are basically opportunistic feeders that consume whatever is most readily available
  • Feeding of largemouth bass is triggered both by hunger or by a reflex
  • Adult largemouth bass do not feed continuously. Once a meal is ingested, the bass may not feed again for hours or days, depending on the size of the prey that was eaten
  • Largemouth bass prefer temperatures in the range of 65-85o F. Feeding frequency declines considerably when water temperatures occur outside of this range
  • Feeding occurs any time during the day or night, but appears most frequent at daybreak, dusk, or during overcast conditions